Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
by Lauren Ebersole '07
I am sorry for the huge lapse in emails to those who wait on baited breath and I'm also sorry to those of you who may not actually care to read them but feel obligated because I'm sending them from Indonesia.
Here are some highlights from the past weeks in Malang, although I am no longer in Malang ... I'll get to that later.
Indonesians know how to party-especially when it comes to a circumcision. Here boys are circumcised at age 10 or so and a huge, often multi-day party occurs. Sarah and I attended one of these gatherings for a relative of some sort and we stood in the receiving line for 2 1/2 hours shaking hands. The next day, all five volunteers went back to the party and were forced on stage where we had to dance. O.K. some were forced; I may have gone willingly. The parties are a very organized affair — people come and shake hands then sit at a group of tables. That is sort of the waiting area until they are ushered into the food area where they eat and then usually leave. Generally the whole village is invited.
I think I have mentioned the village walking club previously. We were invited to attend a kerjabati, or village clean up with the walking group. Sarah, Truong, and I joined in, butlike most things here it was not what we expected. Truong, as a man, was not really allowed to sweep. Sarah and I thought we would be picking up trash along the streets, but the Indonesians were more interested in sweeping the dirt and weeding. When Sarah and I tried to pick up trash they said don't, that is dirty. "Village clean-up" means different things to different people.
Tried to go paragliding — the wind did not cooperate.
We had an International Day at the school where we did our practicum. Our original idea was to have a small field day, but it grew into an event with student performances, cheer competitions, a zip line, etc. Somehow we were also roped into wearing traditional Javanese attire. We had different stations set up for the students as well; a sidewalk chalk station, water balloon toss, a banner station, and a dance station. Obviously, I was one of the volunteers at the dance station and taught the students one of the greatest dances in American history... the Electric Slide and its hip-hop equivalent the Cupid Shuffle. Needless to say they loved it.
We made no-bake cookies, since ovens are a rarity. They were so good although I don't think they went over that well with the Indonesians. My little host brother who loves sweets didn't even like them. I bought peanut butter and like the pesto pasta earlier, it almost made me want to cry.
Last Thursday was the official swearing in ceremony — I am now an actual Peace Corps Volunteer, no longer a trainee. So now I am in a new village, Mojoagung, near Jombang. Leaving the other volunteers, my host family, and the other friends I made in Malang was difficult, much more difficult than I imagined after only knowing these people for three months. I won't go into details, but let's just say there were tears, which is kind of a big deal for me. Now the process begins again, the awkward phase of getting comfortable with a new group of people, the doubts about my own ability, but this time I'm on my own. I think there will be a constant chorus in my head of take things slow, you can't learn everything in a day, but you will be ok.
My new host family seems very nice; my host father is a principal and my host mother is a teacher. I have three host sisters, but only one still lives in the house. She goes to the school where I will be teaching. I have met my teaching counterpart and some other faculty. It is almost the end of the year so I will just be observing the last week or so and then will start teaching when the new year starts in mid-July. Also it is very hot here, evidently I really was in the cool part of Indonesia. Now I am pretty much sweating unless I am sitting in front of a fan.
My memory is like a sieve (as my mother would say) so I no doubt have left important things out of this email. It is also possible I have left them out of my own journal, which in that case those memories are lost to posterity.
I hope everyone is doing well. I miss you all and look forward to hearing from you.
Much love, Lauren
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia